• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Do we crave distortion?

bachatero

Active Member
Joined
Dec 25, 2023
Messages
120
Likes
88
Copied and pasted from another thread:
This is tricky if your sound system is the means to an end that which is the source material. Then, no matter what kind of thing you're listening to, you want to listen to that material as accurately as possible. That means reproducing the imperfections present during recording as faithfully as possible. The problem with this argument comes from those who prefer reproducing "real life" as much as possible, in which case the source material is a means to that end as well.

Personally, I'm a "recordings are the end" type of person, because I'm used to live performances if I want the real life experience, because I'm a musician first and audio person second. However, I can see where you're coming from if you want recordings to be the means to the realism end, and that's just fine because it's a personal preference.
Additionally, I would say that distortion is bad for me PERSONALLY because its harmonics mask the sound of instruments, leading to less detail by definition.
 
OP
Keith_W

Keith_W

Major Contributor
Joined
Jun 26, 2016
Messages
2,787
Likes
6,423
Location
Melbourne, Australia
Amirm does a really good job.
But many of his followers are unfortunately fundamentalists as you may already have discovered.
They have read the books of Toole in best case, but many have never visited a concert with real acoustical instruments, or never been in a real studio. They seems to like nocebo ( cant hear any difference, ever ) and at the same time whoreship high SINAD number for dacs. A contradiction.

Meh, in any forum there are people you agree with, people you disagree with ... all that is normal! But I get much more value from people who disagree with me. It forces me to evaluate what I think, and why. I am not dogmatic at all about anything. If you have a better argument and better evidence, I will change my mind. Sometimes you learn lessons on ASR in a pretty brutal way. The only people who don't like to be contradicted are those without open minds. Those of us who are curious and want to learn love being corrected.

And BTW, who doesn't like ASR? Olive? Or Goldensound?
 

Galliardist

Major Contributor
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
Messages
2,559
Likes
3,287
Location
Sydney. NSW, Australia
I view most if not all reproduced sound as distorted to begin with. From the colorations of microphones on down, what comes out of a sound system, be it a sax, voice, violin, drums etc, all sound diminished - diminished in sonic/harmonic complexity/timbre, and in richness, presence, and other qualities.

I therefore have no qualms about adding anything that, to my ears, gives something back in the direction that I find "more natural" sounding.

So, take the sound of a violin. The assumption seems to be that if you take a "good" recording of a violin, adding distortion could only make it sound worse. But, again, to my ears the recording has already made it sound worse. When I listen to a REAL solo violin what strikes me first is how big and rich it sounds - even played in it's highest register, the sound is thicker, richer than the wiry, thin facsimile I hear from reproduced sound. And since that's one of the main impressions that sticks with me, if a distortion seems to "enrichen" the sound of a recording, it can move it more in the direction my brain takes as "more natural, more like the real thing." And that is what I seem to get using my old tube amplification. Whenever I compare more neutral, accurate solid state amplification to the tubes amps in my system, I hear a trade-off: the solid state sounds a teeny bit more clean and precise, but the tube amplification sounds more "relaxed, rich, full, slightly thicker." And since those are just the type of qualities I hear in real life violins, for me that recreates just a bit more of the gestalt of hearing the real thing. It's just enough to not take away from the recorded character of the instrument - it'll still be a strad or whatever, but the recording just sounds a teeny bit more in the direction of "real/natural" to my ears. It's subtle, but to me significant.
I have to say that here I disagree. Violins DO sound like that. I've done a lot of listening to violins in small halls, sometimes from the front seats: I've once accompanied a violinist in a small room: I've been in the room for good tertiary violinists taking lessons and masterclasses: and I know the quite different sound of violins with one or more gut strings, and of the baroque violin (both instrument and playing techniques).

A violin does sound thin and wiry on the high notes when wire strings are in use. It's the truth. What's more, they are supposed to. It's a playoff against volume and tone: the wire string's note carries further, and is actually more interesting because the thinner string gives more harmonics than a thicker gut string for the same note.

I can concede that a lot of recordings of violin are made close up, which will prevent the hall sound affecting the instrument sound so much, and that may be what you are hearing. But those violin recordings are actually pretty honest,

I've had these arguments more than once, though. A couple of years ago I sat with a friend in the front seats in a small hall for a concert with baroque violin, harpsichord and theorbo. We were close up on the instrument. After the concert, my friend criticised the tone and the playing of the music: he was actually used to vinyl recordings on a tube based system, and I don't think he had been close up to an actual instrument before. It was as if the live instrument was, to him, completely wrong and unexpected.

On another occasion, I was sat with people at a performance of a modern work for guitar and violin, and there were complaints that the violin was a lot louder than the guitar when both instruments played forte. Really... the guitar is a much quieter instrument. But the people concerned had listened to that combination only on record, where engineers tend to balance the sound of the instruments much more closely than in real life.

Obviously, you hear it differently. And I do agree to an extent with your first sentence. I'm just not convinced that you can reliably and continuously "do things to put it back". It doesn't fit with what I hear, even if it does with you. Our experiences, and what we value of the playing, are probably at the root of that difference?
 
Last edited:

MattHooper

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
7,583
Likes
12,806
A violin does sound thin and wiry on the high notes when wire strings are in use. It's the truth.

Oh I know that. That's why I tried to get across that I was speaking relatively - what I hear in reproduced sound relative to live. (As my local urban street is home to tons of street musicians, playing all sorts of music, in the summer I'm exposed to live violin at least once a week, and sometimes daily. I often close my eyes and listen from different angles and distances).

However, I still find that a violin played in the "wiry" high end of it's register sounds surprisingly thick and rich compared to most reproduced violin recordings. There is a size, acoustic energy, and a harmonic richness even to one very high note on a real violin - you are hearing all the harmonics, and if close enough the resonating body. There is something often lost in the recording of instruments, and then the playback.
 

Jaxjax

Active Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2022
Messages
241
Likes
174
Do audiophiles crave distortion in playback? Absolutely!! -- very many of them anyway.

In fact distortion, principally 2n & 3rd order, are the secret to the enduring success of tube components. Unfortunately many "tubephiles" deny the fact; some deny the concept, others concede that distortion might have something to do with their preferences. However very few explicitly acknowledge they are looking for distortion -- although this is obviously true for SET lovers.

One of these days I'll get PKHarmonics to work in my version of Foobar2000 but to date I've had no success. Looks like I'll just have to live with my tube preamp for a while yet.
I used to build all sorts of SET's with custom would for me IT's for coupling & OT. What I could bever get out of my head was how good my 26 DHT pre amps sounded on vocals. Best Ive heard to date. I always chalked it up to a distortion that pleased me. Ive demo flea watt 26-27 IT coupled to 45, strapped 6v6 10 etc on big horns at small shows & always the same...
but in the end my music taste is to broad & SS active is where I live now
26 globes are vert diifficult to keep quiet & I just ran battery B+ & extreme filtered heaters etc etc.
 

Bjorn

Major Contributor
Audio Company
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 22, 2017
Messages
1,318
Likes
2,610
Location
Norway
We crave distortion mainly when there's a weakness in :
1. Speaker design
2. Acoustics of the playback room
3. Or the mastering

The first two are IMO the biggest issues but number three obviously also matters. For most it's a combination of all three.
 

Sokel

Master Contributor
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
6,402
Likes
6,555
We crave distortion mainly when there's a weakness in :
1. Speaker design
2. Acoustics of the playback room
3. Or the mastering

The first two are IMO the biggest issues but number three obviously also matters. For most it's a combination of all three.
No wonder the classical community prefers non distorted (and high dynamic) gear.
Masterings are usually really good,even the old ones.
 

MattHooper

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
7,583
Likes
12,806
We crave distortion mainly when there's a weakness in :
1. Speaker design
2. Acoustics of the playback room
3. Or the mastering

The first two are IMO the biggest issues but number three obviously also matters. For most it's a combination of all three.

Perhaps for some, not for others.

I've heard well designed and neutral speakers and still craved what I have at home (which is a little dollop of coloration).

No wonder the classical community prefers non distorted (and high dynamic) gear.
Masterings are usually really good,even the old ones.

Do they?

I've seen plenty of audiophiles with systems ASR would judge "colored" but who are classical music enthusiasts.

Or are audiophiles not part of the "classical community" you speak of?
 
D

Deleted member 21219

Guest
I've seen plenty of audiophiles with systems ASR would judge "colored" but who are classical music enthusiasts.

Or are audiophiles not part of the "classical community" you speak of?

I believe the people to whom @Sokel refers when he references "the classical community [that] prefers non distorted (and high dynamic) gear" are conductors and orchestra members ... IOW, the performers. I had heard complaints in this regard, albeit in the '70s and '80s. I believe that the key to Sokel's meaning lies with the sentence, "Masterings are usually really good, even the old ones." Although I admit that this can be taken two ways, I believe his meaning most likely pointed to the professional segment of the audio world.
Also, I would not be so hasty as to assume that "non distorted and high dynamic" gear necessarily equated to what we chiefly describe as "colored" ... at least, not 100%.

I would suspect that the same criticisms could be leveled at jazz performances. However, I have never had any interest in jazz, so I can't speak to that.

Now to address the subject of "colored", as in classical music enthusiasts having "colored" systems:
What sort of systems do you think were produced in the '50s, '60s and '70s? I remember listening to symphonies on Altecs and Klipschorns, and briefly on Bozaks and Wharfedales. Those systems were definitely "colored", yet we certainly had no less enthusiasm for classical recordings. Not only that, but the people who had these systems definitely considered themselves to be "audiophiles", before the term became corrupted by subjectivists.

So if you translate "classical community" as chiefly orchestral performers, then I would say no, audiophiles (as distinct from performers) are not a part of that "classical community".

OTOH, if we take "classical community" to mean all people who have an interest in classical music, regardless of position or function, then I concede that the view is different.

Jim
.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

MattHooper

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
7,583
Likes
12,806
I believe the people to whom @Sokel refers when he references "the classical community [that] prefers non distorted (and high dynamic) gear" are conductors and orchestra members ... IOW, the performers. I had heard complaints in this regard, albeit in the '70s and '80s. I believe that the key to Sokel's meaning lies with the sentence, "Masterings are usually really good, even the old ones." Although I admit that this can be taken two ways, I believe his meaning most likely pointed to the professional segment of the audio world.
Also, I would not be so hasty as to assume that "non distorted and high dynamic" gear necessarily equated to what we chiefly describe as "colored" ... at least, not 100%.

I would suspect that the same criticisms could be leveled at jazz performances. However, I have never had any interest in jazz, so I can't speak to that.

Now to address the subject of "colored", as in classical music enthusiasts having "colored" systems:
What sort of systems do you think were produced in the '50s, '60s and '70s? I remember listening to symphonies on Altecs and Klipshorns, and briefly on Bozaks and Wharfedales. Those systems were definitely "colored", yet we certainly had no less enthusiasm for classical recordings. Not only that, but the people who had these systems definitely considered themselves to be "audiophiles", before the term became corrupted by subjectivists.

So if you translate "classical community" as chiefly performers, then I would say no, audiophiles (as distinct from performers) are not a part of that "classical community".

OTOH, if we take "classical community" to mean all people who have an interest in classical music, regardless of position or function, then I concede that the view is different.

Jim
.

Sure if Sokel was referencing actual classical musicians. I don't know enough of them to know what systems they own. Does Sokel know enough to make such generalizations I wonder?
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
16,215
Likes
37,042
Location
The Neitherlands
I've seen plenty of audiophiles with systems ASR would judge "colored" but who are classical music enthusiasts
Colored (frequency response deviations) is something different than adding frequencies that were not in the recording (distortion) though.
I don't mind colored but would rather not have audible/detectable amounts of distortion.
 

Galliardist

Major Contributor
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
Messages
2,559
Likes
3,287
Location
Sydney. NSW, Australia
Sure if Sokel was referencing actual classical musicians. I don't know enough of them to know what systems they own. Does Sokel know enough to make such generalizations I wonder?
The few I know have systems from across the spectrum, or no interest. As far as I know, when it comes to what we call "sound quality", they are the same as everyone else. They can also fall for exactly the same things we see from everyone else, and don't have an interest in blind testing or such. I know at least three musicians who swear they can tell the massive difference between 320kHz MP3 and lossless, for example.

When it comes to musicians talking about performance quality, though, sit up and listen.
 

Waxx

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 12, 2021
Messages
2,039
Likes
8,113
Location
Wodecq, Hainaut, Belgium
Classical music is recorded with the cleanest equipment possible. In the time i was involved it was mainly Schoeps microphones and Hardy or Martech preamps, because those are not coloured at all and very low distortion. What is used today i don't know, but i guess a lot is digital, and all is as clean neutral low distortion as possible.

In mixing classic music, compression is a big sin, and other processing is done very sparsly, only when it is needed to sound clean neutral. The sound is mostly formed by microphone choice and positioning, not by processing during the mixdown or mastering. The aim is to be as close as possible to being in the hall, in the prime seats of that hall with your recording.

What listeners of classical music got as equipment is less clear. I listened to classical on tube amps and single driver fullrange systems but also on clean multiway systems with class D amps and both work. My former father in law, a big classical music freak uses 1975's Tannoy Westminster speakers amped with 1988's Manley 500 Watt Monoblock tube amps (in triode modus) and a Manley Steelhead as preamp as his main system. Source is vinyl (Linn LP12) or a old Philips cd player. His system in his outhouse are 1970's Tannoy Arden with a Manley 440 amps and a Manley preamp i don't remember and the same type philips cd player. And he (and i and his daughter, my ex) were perfectly happy with that setup for classical.
 

Sokel

Master Contributor
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
6,402
Likes
6,555
I believe the people to whom @Sokel refers when he references "the classical community [that] prefers non distorted (and high dynamic) gear" are conductors and orchestra members ... IOW, the performers. I had heard complaints in this regard, albeit in the '70s and '80s. I believe that the key to Sokel's meaning lies with the sentence, "Masterings are usually really good, even the old ones." Although I admit that this can be taken two ways, I believe his meaning most likely pointed to the professional segment of the audio world.
Also, I would not be so hasty as to assume that "non distorted and high dynamic" gear necessarily equated to what we chiefly describe as "colored" ... at least, not 100%.

I would suspect that the same criticisms could be leveled at jazz performances. However, I have never had any interest in jazz, so I can't speak to that.

Now to address the subject of "colored", as in classical music enthusiasts having "colored" systems:
What sort of systems do you think were produced in the '50s, '60s and '70s? I remember listening to symphonies on Altecs and Klipshorns, and briefly on Bozaks and Wharfedales. Those systems were definitely "colored", yet we certainly had no less enthusiasm for classical recordings. Not only that, but the people who had these systems definitely considered themselves to be "audiophiles", before the term became corrupted by subjectivists.

So if you translate "classical community" as chiefly performers, then I would say no, audiophiles (as distinct from performers) are not a part of that "classical community".

OTOH, if we take "classical community" to mean all people who have an interest in classical music, regardless of position or function, then I concede that the view is different.

Jim
.
I wouldn't add much as things are clear.
I would just add hard core lovers to the equation.
Of course you'll find people which just don;t care,as in everywhere else.
But amongst the ones who do care,the preference is solid.

It just the nature of the music that dictates the gear not the other way around.
What must be pointed out is that the uncolored or non (evident) distortion gear can and will end be just as bad if not up to the task for it's high dynamic range.

Small tube amps doesn't cut it. Small 2 or 3 way doesn't cut it either,depending of the room and the corrections of course.
Big boys of the time (as the Klipshorns) did the job with their high sensitivity.

When it comes just between colored or not,whatever cut through the performance as a knife is better.

It's that simple.
 

Chr1

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
860
Likes
667
I think there are far too many generalisations here. Obviously the system needs to be able to deal with the dynamics of the music, but this is surely dependent on the volume required and the room. I use Neumann KH310s, which are relatively small 3-ways. I also use a valve amp. Both of them are very capable of high dynamics at the volume I need (and more), as I use them for >80Hz only with twin 400W subs. The valve amp drives very sensitive Tannoy V12s. I find that both of these systems are capable good dynamics at high SPLs.

I think that it is always a good idea to use powered subwoofers with valve amplifiers personally. Bass needs lots power obviously.

"When it comes just between colored or not,whatever cut through the performance as a knife is better.
It's that simple."

I am not really clear on what this means.
 
Last edited:

Sokel

Master Contributor
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
6,402
Likes
6,555
I think there are far too many generalisations here. Obviously the system needs to be able to deal with the dynamics of the music, but this is surely dependent on the volume required and the room. I use Neumann KH310s, which are relatively small 3-ways. I also use a valve amp. Both of them are very capable of high dynamics at the volume I need (and more), as I use them with very sensitive Tannoy V12s for >80Hz only (the valve amp), and twin 400W subs (both systems).

"When it comes just between colored or not,whatever cut through the performance as a knife is better.
It's that simple."

I am not really clear on what this means.
That's a beautiful Má Vlast: Vltava at 70 and 80db (A) average with it's peaks shown in (Z) weighting:

70db.PNG 80db.PNG

Dynamics not played are not evident unless you know they are there,it only takes a few times to experience them to know if they are missing.
The performance I'm talking about is the musical one obviously.

Edit:To give a personal example ,my previous SF Olympica driven by an Audio Analogue Donizetti Anniversary (350W, 690W, 1.3kW and 2.4kW available into 8, 4, 2 and 1ohm) wouldn't cut it to the extend I would want,limited by the speakers obviously (2x 7" for lows,and not big cabinets) but it was ok for the smaller untreated space I had back then.

I will not extend to tonality,etc,the SF are obviously no champions of neutrality but I could bear with them because of their gentle (in my room) highs but I wouldn't go back to them now that I'm spoiled.
 
Last edited:

MattHooper

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
7,583
Likes
12,806
The few I know have systems from across the spectrum, or no interest. As far as I know, when it comes to what we call "sound quality", they are the same as everyone else. They can also fall for exactly the same things we see from everyone else, and don't have an interest in blind testing or such.

That's my experience too. I know tons of musicians from jazz to fusion to rock and pop (I played in a band for a long time too) and I have not found any trend either way. Some have a stereotypical musician"crap" system and don't care, some have modest systems with solid state amplification, some have tube amp based systems and various audiophile type speakers.

Since classical music aficionados I know of in the audiophile world are in a spectrum like any other with regard to seeking or not the strictest neutrality, I don't see why any other classical music listeners would be different, whether they happen to play or not.



Of course you'll find people which just don;t care,as in everywhere else.
But amongst the ones who do care,the preference is solid.

I see you are claiming that people in the classical community specifically seek out and use neutral playback systems. But do you have any evidence?

I have a very low sample size to go on for that specifically. Off the top of my head, I know that TAS reviewer Robert E. Greene plays violin in an amateur orchestra and he
generally advocates neutral sound.

On the other hand, reviewer Anthony Kershaw is a classical musician, his "about me":

My primary profession is classical musician. I have performed as flutist or conductor with the finest ensembles in Europe and North America. I was a scholarship student at Trinity College of Music, London, where I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship, won the Chamber Music Prize (awarded by Sir Yehudi Menuhin) and the Guild Prize as the conservatoire’s best wind instrumentalist.

And Anthony seemed enamoured by playback on a speaker much derided as non-neutral in ASR. From his Devore O/96 speaker review:

"I threw on Windjammers, a CD of music by Sammy Nestico. These fabulous arrangements of classical music feature solo woodwinds and a full jazz stage band. Nestico's arrangements (originally for the US Marine Band) are tasteful and musically very effective. I got to play some very lovely flute solos courtesy of the great man -- Rimsky Korsakov, Borodin and others.

My sound was replicated to perfection -- every musical inflection heard, stress here, crescendo there, and sweet diminuendos. I've not heard my own sound on a speaker sound so natural. Most speakers add something, but the DeVores left me alone. Very impressive.
"
 
D

Deleted member 21219

Guest
I see you are claiming that people in the classical community specifically seek out and use neutral playback systems.

So you believe that @Sokel referred specifically to neutrality as primary? I didn't read it that way, because of this sentence:

What must be pointed out is that the uncolored or non (evident) distortion gear can and will end [up] be[ing] just as bad if not up to the task for it's high dynamic range.

Therefore, I don't believe that neutrality was the PRIMARY issue of interest to recording engineers and orchestral performers. I believe dynamic range is the primary interest although neutrality is also important. That's why I mentioned the Altecs, the Klipsch, and the big Bozaks. I listened to classical orchestral music on other speaker systems back in the day, to be sure. I also listened to them on much smaller speakers, capable of less output. I was never impressed.

This is not to say that a badly designed speaker system that is capable of high output is always to be preferred. It's like anything else in life; a bad design can have flaws that outweigh the advantages.

As for the testimonies of soloists, I have found out over the years that soloists tend to concentrate on performances that emphasize the interests of the soloist. I view that as natural. Bassist primarily notice the bass line, and vocalists primarily notice the vocals, and so on and so forth.

As a listener, I view the totality of the finished product. I think that is proper ... don't you?

Jim
 

Sokel

Master Contributor
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
6,402
Likes
6,555
That's my experience too. I know tons of musicians from jazz to fusion to rock and pop (I played in a band for a long time too) and I have not found any trend either way. Some have a stereotypical musician"crap" system and don't care, some have modest systems with solid state amplification, some have tube amp based systems and various audiophile type speakers.

Since classical music aficionados I know of in the audiophile world are in a spectrum like any other with regard to seeking or not the strictest neutrality, I don't see why any other classical music listeners would be different, whether they happen to play or not.





I see you are claiming that people in the classical community specifically seek out and use neutral playback systems. But do you have any evidence?

I have a very low sample size to go on for that specifically. Off the top of my head, I know that TAS reviewer Robert E. Greene plays violin in an amateur orchestra and he
generally advocates neutral sound.

On the other hand, reviewer Anthony Kershaw is a classical musician, his "about me":

My primary profession is classical musician. I have performed as flutist or conductor with the finest ensembles in Europe and North America. I was a scholarship student at Trinity College of Music, London, where I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship, won the Chamber Music Prize (awarded by Sir Yehudi Menuhin) and the Guild Prize as the conservatoire’s best wind instrumentalist.

And Anthony seemed enamoured by playback on a speaker much derided as non-neutral in ASR. From his Devore O/96 speaker review:

"I threw on Windjammers, a CD of music by Sammy Nestico. These fabulous arrangements of classical music feature solo woodwinds and a full jazz stage band. Nestico's arrangements (originally for the US Marine Band) are tasteful and musically very effective. I got to play some very lovely flute solos courtesy of the great man -- Rimsky Korsakov, Borodin and others.

My sound was replicated to perfection -- every musical inflection heard, stress here, crescendo there, and sweet diminuendos. I've not heard my own sound on a speaker sound so natural. Most speakers add something, but the DeVores left me alone. Very impressive.
"
Had a look about it,this speaker?

(that's an in room response)

1705258899464.jpeg


I will not comment on the specific but it must be 30 of my posts addressing this dip in the mid-bass who usually comes with bad sub-main integration and literally sucks out the meat and tactile feel of the brass ascending.It's the very area that makes a speaker sound thin although in the particular one the drop n highs may come to rescue.
Nope.
 
Top Bottom